Hi everyone, I've been in love with children's book illustrator and writer Christy Hale and her work for some time. She's a Girl Genius who does some of the best conceptual nonfiction illustration and writing around. When people think of illustration, they may recognize the skills and techniques in the art, but they often aren't aware of the ideas and thinking that goes into making the art really powerful in its own right.
In books like Water Land: Land and Water Forms Around the World and Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building, Christy makes those kinds of visual smarts really clear through the power of juxtaposition. I'm going to start with Water Land, which plays with the concept of figure/ground or figure/field reversal. The Rubin Vase is a wonderful near relative of this, where if you look at the image one way you see a vase, and if you look at it another, you see two faces in profile.
Christy takes this idea to a whole other level where she uses a really limited color palette, texture, pattern, and die cuts (engineered shapes cut out of the paper) to flip from land to water and back again with page turns. It takes a very different kind of brain to be able to figure this kind of abstract stuff out to make it concrete and understandable for kids.Needless to say I'm a little in awe. This book is a really brilliant way to teach the science of different kinds of landmasses or forms and different kinds of bodies of water. I'm sure science-loving teachers and parents really appreciate how much fun Christy has made this – even for very young kids.
For example, on the very first spread, we see a kid playing underneath the tree and a guy fishing in the lake, the lake is a die cut-out shape of blue, and the land is yellow with a teeny bit of brown on the tree and red on the fall leaves and a foreground branch. We turn the page and see the kid is madly making an SOS out of a leaf that has now become a fire and that fall tree has turned into a pair of Island coconut trees while the guy is fishing off an island and has just hooked a bottle that says help.
Now, it's not just an image of different land and water forms, it’s a delightful small story. We turn to a new page and it's a bay scene with kids playing ball. One kid points to a shark in the water. Eek. The sense of drama heightens. We turn the page again to see that color has become a landmass called a cape complete with a lighthouse. Kids are windsurfing and that shark is now a ways away, no longer so threatening. Christy is playing with expectations and the element of surprise in that we really don't know what's going to come next. Each pair of page turns is a small story that reflects life in its many forms on both land and water.
Christy uses a very graphic style of illustration. But what makes this book really sing is her use of texture and pattern. It's amazing what she's been able to do with mostly primary colors and the occasional brown or black or green. I don't want to give the whole book away because it's just really fantastic and I want you to buy it and have it in your library to tease out the many small stories in this book and learn from the minimal text and gorgeous art, but I will say that there is a fabulous pullout or gateway fold (a big page that opens up) that is so dramatic in it's graphic representation to totally show how land-forms and water forms appear throughout the world. It's breathtaking as is the whole book. I learned things I didn't know from this and had a fabulous time exploring how a genius mind can shine.
The second book from Christy that I want to share with you is Dreaming Up: A Celebration Of Building. Like most of Christy’s work, Dreaming Up features diverse characters in a really quiet way that is appreciated. Here what Christy has done is take different kinds of architecture and juxtapose it with similar forms in the natural world. Like Land Water, this story is ingenious and heartwarming.
Here are a couple of examples.
As you can see, Christy’s work is pretty extraordinary. I hope that you’ll explore more of her work at ChristyHale.com
You can also follow Christy on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!
Last but certainly not least, I'm thrilled to share a personal interview with Christy in the Craft & Business of Illustrating Children's Book course that starts next month. You do not want to miss this!
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature a surprise reprise from over nine years of archives.